W1702 – Andes Adventure 5

In my last post,  W1702 – Andes Adventure 4, I described how we reluctantly said our goodbyes to our brilliant guide Fabricio and driver Eduardo for Ecuador at Quito airport, and took an evening flight down to Lima in Peru. In our original itinerary the flight was earlier in the day, in time to catch up with our shop which had been in Lima overnight, but now we were arriving several hours after she had set sail for her next port, Paracas.

Arriving around 10:30pm, we were met by a new driver and guide, and driven to the Swissotel San Isidro where we would stay the night. The hotel was quite some distance from the airport, and we were surprised just how busy the roads were for that time of night. Our new guide Jorge told us that this was because all the international flights arrive around the same time in the evening. It was not until around 11:30 that we had checked in, and finally headed to our rooms for much needed sleep after a very long day with so much travelling.

The itinerary for our last day on this epic tour was to have a guided tour around Lima for a couple of hours or so, and then be driven down the coast road to Paracas and our waiting ship, a drive of around four hours.

To be honest the relentless travelling and sightseeing, staying in a new hotel every single night, and the high altitude in Ecuador was very much catching up with me – by morning I still felt quite tired and jaded, and all I really wanted was to get back to the ship and my familiar cabin and rest up for a long time.

While we were now down at sea level, and no longer had the high altitude to worry about, it was a very hot and sunny day, and walking around outside was still going to be very draining. For the guided tour of Lima, Jorge had arranged for a colleague to do the guiding. He was very knowledgeable, but had plenty to say with quite a strong accent, and where I felt hot and tired it was all too easy to tune out of some of the things he was telling us.

Our tour started at the Huaca Huallamarca, a stepped pyramid dating back to pre-Inca times, which we could only view from outside some railings. The pyramid site had later been used as a cemetery, and later still as a store for textiles and food. Conservation work in the late 1950s has over-restored the pyramid by modern standards, with it’s ‘too perfect’ appearance:

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We were then driven to the centre of Lima, and dropped outside the Basilica Cathedral of Lima, on the edge of the Plaza Mayor or main square of Lima. As well as the Cathedral, the Plaza Mayor is surrounded by the Government Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union:

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After taking photographs of the Plaza Mayor, we entered the Cathedral. Construction began in 1535, and the building has undergone many reconstructions and transformations since. It is dedicated to St John, the Apostle and Evangelist. Inside there are 14 very striking side chapels:

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Although the main pillars and roof of the cathedral looked very solid, our guide explained that in fact the pillars had a hollow construction, and very lightweight materials were used for both the pillars and the roof because of the severe risk of earthquakes:

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He then led us down some steep steps under a very low archway into the crypt. Here burial chambers and a pit that used to hold bones had been excavated:

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Returning to the car, we continued our tour of the centre of Lima, our guide pointing out many notable buildings as we passed them:

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We then took the expressway out to the district of Miraflores on the coast. After driving along the coast road for a while, we stopped for a short final photo stop. A statue of a familiar character, who of course came from darkest Peru, greeted us:

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From the Esplanade we had good views down onto the beaches below. To preserve the open Esplanade, a modern centre with shops and cafes had been built underneath it. Behind there were tall hotels, whose towers were disappearing into the sea mist swirling in, which our guide said was quite normal along this coastline.We then said our farewells to the additional guide, and settled back in the car for the long drive south along the coast to the small port of Paracas in order to re-board our ship at last. The guide estimated it would take around four hours to reach there, plus any stops we made on the way.

The day was getting hotter and hotter, all I wanted to do was reach the air conditioned coolness of the ship and relax with my friends on board. The drive was pretty uninspiring too, with miles and miles of sand dunes and just the occasional beach resort:

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After a couple of hours it was decided that we would stop at a roadside café for a drink and a break. Robert and June ordered a plate of chips and a beer each, but with the high heat and humidity I was content with just some cold water.

Setting off once more, after a couple more hours on the road we could eventually catch sight of our ship moored up across the bay:

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However before we could reach her, we had to go through quite a lengthy security check before entering the port area, and then a customs check including searching our bags on the quayside. At last we could walk up the familiar gangplank and re-board our ship!

It had been a long but fabulous tour, and we had seen so much wonderful scenery and learned so much about a part of the world that I had known very little about. Personally I was very impressed with Ecuador and it’s friendly people, but less so with the hustle and bustle of Peru – at least the small part if it we saw. I would certainly have no hesitation in recommending the tour or a visit to Ecuador to anyone in the future.

Postscript: As we drove south towards the ship, I received a phone message from a friend on-board to say there were seals and pelicans very close to the ship. Once safely back on board I couldn’t resist popping up on deck to see if I could capture any shots of them with my camera:

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